Bruins unstoppable in the third period


Bruins unstoppable in the third period

BOSTON -- Want one statistic that practically screams the Bruins will once again be hoisting the Stanley Cup this spring?

They've outscored their opponents 60-23 inthe third period this year.

The Bruins made their reputation last year by wearing down other teams through overwhelming depth and grinding physicality, and then dominating their weary opponents once the third period rolled around. The finish up strong mentality worked wonders for them on their way to a Stanley Cup victory in Vancouver last June, and disheartened a bevy ofverycountry strongteams along their journey.

But they're taking it to a new level this year, and its the kind of closingdomination that can make a team feel bulletproof. It could lead some hockey clubs to slack in the first 40 minutes as the Bruins did in victory over the Winnipeg Jets, but that's the exception rather than the rule this year.

We have always been a pretty good team in the third when we are leading, said Tuukka Rask, who won his sixth game in a row with 29 saves against Winnipeg in a 5-3 win Tuesday night . . . a game in which the B's entered the third period trailing, 3-2, but outscored Winnipeg 3-0 in the final 20 minutes. We have been able to get these comebacks and its huge for the teams confidence."

Leading the league in goals against is something the Bruins have done multiple times under Claude Julien, but being first in goals scored is an impressive new wrinkle. The structure and discipline has always been there, but the Bs are at a whole different stratosphere offensively these days. The two-way strength shows a mighty hockeyteam full of skill and smarts.

Tuesday night was the third time this season the Bruins have come from behind in the third period or overtime, and the fourth time theyve taken points out of one of those seeminglyuntenable situations.

Its a mental mindset. Today, we told ourselves we sucked in the first two periods and we have to get out there to win, said Dennis Seidenberg, painting quite a picture of the dressing room discussions between the second and third period. We just cant sleep through the whole game, but it shows that were mentally strong enough to turn it up in the third period when it counts and to get the win.More than just mental resolve, the Bruins have become stone cold killers in the final 20 minutes when they sense weakness in the enemy team on the other side of the ice. One sloppy turnover or one careless rebound turns into the backbreaking goal that cinches the game. Couple that with Boston's comeback ability, and there is some kind of confidence being brandished in those pivotal final minutes.

Its kind of developing a killer instinct, said coach Claude Julien of the thought process in the third period. Our guys really want to finish strong, and they dont want to give the other team an opportunity to get themselves back into it when we do have the lead. I just think they want to finish strong.

For the most part, I think our teams been pretty committed to playing 60-minute games, and tonight was obviously one of those, I would say, rare games where two of the periods were not up to our standards, but overall, I think our guys have done a pretty good job trying to put in a full-game effort.

The full-game effort has been commendable and the Bruins are outscoring their opponents by a healthy margin in each of the three periods in an NHL hockey game, but theres something about Bostons third periods that bodes well for their future.Some might even call their third period domination a Stanley Cup stat in the making.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Knicks

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

WALTHAM, Mass. –  As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.

There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.

The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.

But that’s not all.

He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.

Since began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.

What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.

“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”

Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.

Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.

And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.

Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.

  • 2016: James Harden (7.7)
  • 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
  • 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
  • 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
  • 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
  • 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
  • 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
  • 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
  • 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
  • 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)

You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.

As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.

“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”

And for opponents, a lot of problems.

“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”